Cooking for Hugo: Debbie Koenig's Barbecued Brisket
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

The 12 Days of Christmas Gift Guide

I know a lot of you are probably up to your eyeballs with Thanksgiving preparations, but I thought you might appreciate a little headstart on your holiday gift-buying. I really loved putting together the gift guide again. Each year, discovering so many talented people making incredible things all across the world inspires me anew. I hope you find something here for yourself or a loved one that makes you happy.

(And may I suggest, as a bonus item, ahem, that my book makes for a wonderful gift? Now available in German!)



1. A friend of mine in New York sent me a tin of Sandy Lee's Leckerlee Lebkuchen last Christmas and they absolutely blew me away. Big, plump and deeply delicious, these Lebkuchen are even better than the real thing from Bavaria. No joke. Sandy perfected her Lebkuchen recipe while living in Germany, then moved to New York and opened Leckerlee, bringing her handmade Lebkuchen stateside. I love the fact that Sandy keeps her wares tightly edited - she makes only traditional Lebkuchen coated in a thin sugar glaze or a crisp layer of good chocolate. In addition to her fabulous Lebkuchen, Sandy's tins - beautifully designed updates on the traditional Lebkuchen designs - are so useful and collectable. I want them all!



2. I can't remember who turned me onto Maldon sea salt (Jamie? Nigella?), since it's been so long since I started using it, sprinkling it onto tomato salads and buttered toast, feeling the salt crumble between my pinched fingers. But recently, I discovered a salt that makes Maldon sea salt seem like an industrial product. Jacobsen's hand-harvested American salt, collected on the Oregon coast, is snowy white and sturdy - its naturally formed pyramids still almost entirely intact. And it's got a lot of famous fans - the list of restaurants that use Jacobsen salt in their kitchens is impressive (Sitka & Spruce in Seattle, Blackbird in Chicago, The Spotted Pig in New York, among many others). This is the perfect gift for the person in your life who lives by the farm-to-table credo and the slide tins are just the thing for pulling out of your jacket pocket discreetly the next time you're at your mother's dinner table.



3. I'm always on the lookout for smartly designed aprons and LA-based Hedley & Bennett hit the mark. Their denim and red Apollo apron is so chic! I love that their aprons have adjustable neck straps and quality materials like pure denim and brass hardware elevate these into fantastic gift territory.


4. The most stylish store to open in Berlin in recent memory is Paper & Tea, a cool, clean emporium for loose teas, beautiful (and tiny!) Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese tea cups and pots, and expertly selected paper products. It's hard to enter the store without purchasing at least three new teas to try. My favorite of the moment is their genmaicha, studded with toasty brown rice, but White Earl, a white tea scented with bergamot, is delicate and lovely. While all their products are available for mail-order, they also offer tea tasting classes for local folks. 


5. These stunning bottle openers need little explanation. Solid brass. Made in Rhode Island. Simply amazing. (Via Lottie & Doof.)




6. Cinnamon Hill's cinnamon grater seems at first glance to be the kind of superfluous gizmo the world doesn't need. Isn't ground cinnamon in a jar good enough? The answer turns out to be, actually, no. After all, we all grate nutmeg whenever we need some; why not do the same with a spice used far more commonly even? Cinnamon Hill sells different kinds of cinnamon paired with their grater, sticks of "true" Ceylon cinnamon from Sri Lanka that have citrusy notes and Vietnamese cassia cinnamon that is hotter and sweeter. These aromas unfold immediately when you freshly grate the cinnamon on the beautifully designed grater, helping to boost the scents and flavor of your holiday baking.



7. I went to a wine seminar last month with a bunch of girlfriends and made the discovery of the year: Eric Bordelet's pear cider. Bordelet used to be the wine director of L'Arpège in Paris, but left to return to his family vineyard in Normandy, specializing in fruit ciders. To be clear, though, these ciders have a lot more in common with Champagne than they do with juice. Bordelet's Poiré Authentique is crisp and dry, its flavor stunningly precise and delicious. I plan on serving a bottle with dessert this Christmas, but you could also buy a whole case and bring a bottle to every holiday party you go to. I guarantee you'll be the star of the season. And if you have a few shekels left over after that, spring for a bottle of Poiré Granit (a reserve cider made exclusively from the fruit of Bordelet's oldest trees - 200 to 300 years old) and let me know how it is.


8. Heather Taylor's hand-embroidered indigo linen runner feels cooling and summery as well as festive for winter. I happen to be a linens fiend - we have more tablecloths than we'll ever need - and yet I can always find reasons to add more to the collection. I love the casual elegance of a good runner and sometimes even use one on our coffee table during tea time (though Hugo's put a swift end to this practice for now). The blue-and-white combo here makes my heart sing.


9. Juliane Ahn of Object & Totem recently moved to Berlin and now produces her beautiful beads and vessels just a few neighborhoods over from me. It's hard to choose amongst her austere, yet still cheeky objects. Pick up one of her lidded spice jars for your kitchen or a chrome-beaded necklace for your mother. Maybe leave just one brilliantly blue Berliner mug for me.


10. I recently discovered a package of Gschwendner's rooibush-orange-peppermint tea on our groaning tea shelf. I have no idea how it got there or who gave it to us, but it has quickly turned into my very favorite tea to quaff all day long. I make a big pot in the morning, after my essential mug of milky black tea (Hugo is an early riser and I need that to help my eyes open), and then sip it all day long. It's got that gorgeous reddish rooibush hue and the combination of orange and peppermint is inspired. The peppermint tones down the exuberance of the citrus and the orange softens the peppermint's bite. I love it. It's delicious plain or sweetened with honey.



11. Food 52's Provisions shop is stuffed to the gills with wondrous things (these porcelain fairy lights? these napkin rings? this ginger beer kit?). I'm particularly enamored with the simplicity of these hexagonal beeswax candles and want to fill my dining table with a whole snaking line of them come Christmastime.


12. I discovered Julie Lee's gorgeous market collages on Instagram this past year and was thrilled when she decided to start selling prints of them recently. They're printed in an 8x10 format (wouldn't a row of them look great in a kitchen?), but Julie will also do custom-sized prints if you like.

Full disclosure: Jacobsen Salt and Cinnamon Hill provided me with review samples of their products, but the decision to include them in this gift guide was entirely my own.